This week sees the completion of the First Battalion 6th Westphalian Infantry Regiment No 55 for the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War army.
Created under von Roon’s reforms it started life in May 1860 as the 15th Infantry Regiment, formed around the active personnel of the 15th Landwehr Regiment and the Lippe-Detmold Battalion. Garrisoned in Eastern Westphalia it was incorporated into the VII corps, based in Münster. Despite its short tenure of service, by the time the Franco-Prussian War began the regiment had considerable experience under its belt.
Two years later the regiment was in the thick of it again during the Austrian-Prussian war. Initially it was assigned to the occupation of Hanover after the surrender of the Hanoverian army, but was soon called forward to join the Army of the Main in the campaign in Western Germany. It fought at Dermbach, and again at Kissingen where it played a pivotal role in the street fighting that secured the town and forced the withdrawal of the Bavarians. At Aschaffenburg, four days later, the Regiment stormed the gates of the city and then rounded up some 600 prisoners. Following further heavy action at Tauberischofsheim (where all of the officers of the Fusilier battalion were counted among the casualties) the regiment was also involved in skirmishes at Uettingen and Gershsheim. By the end of August, with the War’s conclusion, it returned to its garrison.
As a part of 13th Division, VII Corps the regiment went to war again in 1870, fighting at Spicheren, where it decisively turned the flank of the French east of Forbach (and by chance captured the works recently abandoned by its opposite - the French 55th Regiment). It fought again at Colombey where is suffered losses of 21 officers and 525 men. It was slightly engaged at Gravelotte and participated in the Siege of Metz. After the surrender of that place the regiment was assigned to XIV corps that fought against Garibaldi in the Rhône Valley, before fighting in the engagements of Villersexel and Lisaine that forced Bourbaki’s French Army of the East across the Swiss border and into internment. It then remained in France as part of the Army of Occupation.
In 1889 the Kaiser Wilhelm II renamed the regiment Graf Bülow von Dennewitz, 6th Westphalian, (no 55) in honour of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Bülow of the Wars of Liberation fame.
In the Great War the regiment was engaged entirely on the Western Front fighting at Verdun, the Somme, the Aisne, Ancre, Avre and Hamel. By late-1917 the regiment was reduced to a single battalion and was disbanded in December 1918